Syria's moderate opposition in 'serious difficulty': France

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday, Dec 14, 2013, that the moderate opposition to the Syrian regime was in "serious difficulty" and that long-delayed peace talks aimed at ending the crisis were in trouble. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday, Dec 14, 2013, that the moderate opposition to the Syrian regime was in "serious difficulty" and that long-delayed peace talks aimed at ending the crisis were in trouble. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

MONACO (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday, Dec 14, 2013, that the moderate opposition to the Syrian regime was in "serious difficulty" and that long-delayed peace talks aimed at ending the crisis were in trouble.

"On Syria, I'm unfortunately rather pessimistic," Mr Fabius said.

"The moderate opposition that we support is in serious difficulty," he said, voicing "doubts" over the prospects of peace talks known as "Geneva 2" that mediators have been trying to organise to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The talks are scheduled for Jan 22, 2014, in the Swiss city, but Mr Fabius said there were "doubts" over whether they would make progress towards ending the civil war that has now raged for more than two and a half years and killed more than 126,000 people.

"My fellow European ministers and I are working to make (the talks) a success, but there's room for lots of doubts. And unfortunately, if this meeting's not a success, it means this martyred country is going to keep suffering - and neighbouring countries, too," he said.

Mr Fabius was speaking in Monaco as he left the World Policy Conference, a meeting of political and business leaders.

The Free Syrian Army, the moderate rebel group supported by Western powers including France, has been losing ground to Islamist fighters as the insurgency against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has turned into a more complex conflict with schisms between the various rebel groups.

In the latest blow to the Free Syrian Army, the United States and Britain on Thursday suspended all non-lethal aid to the group after a powerful new rebel alliance, the Islamic Front, seized a Turkish border crossing and nearby weapons warehouses from them.

The opposition wants the Geneva peace conference to unseat Mr Assad, but his regime has refused to accept any pre-conditions on the talks.